George Benda Jr., 1935-2018

Published 1:00 am Tuesday, October 16, 2018

George D. Benda Jr., 83, of Jackson passed away peacefully Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. At his death, George was surrounded by his family and his wife, Jean, of 61 years.

George was born Aug. 28, 1935, in Jackson. Except for attending college, George lived his entire life in rural Alpha, raising a family, farming and participating as an active member of the local community.

George’s parents were George D. Benda Sr. and Evelyn Benda (Eustice). George was baptized at St. Wenceslaus (now Good Shepard) Church in Jackson, where he would later baptize his five children — Jeanne, George III, Ellen, Meg and Matt.

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George graduated from Jackson High School in 1953. He then started college at the University of Minnesota, where he proudly joined the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity house. George then graduated from Iowa State University in 1957 with a degree in animal science and a passion for farming and raising livestock.

On June 29, 1957, in Sanborn, Iowa, George married D. Jean Benda (Hickey), whom he met at Newman Center at Iowa State University. George and Jean made their home in rural Wisconsin township — first living a mile south of his parents and later moving to the family farm known as “Old Acres.” George and Jean spent the rest of their lives at Old Acres, where they taught their children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren the value of hard work and perseverance.

George was always up early accomplishing a half day of work before breakfast and recharging for the rest of the day with a nap on the floor after lunch. Old Acres was originally purchased by George’s grandfather, Frank Benda, on Nov. 7, 1901, and is still farmed today by the family.

George had a passion for livestock and inherited the cattleman’s spirit from his father. George was president and a national director of the Minnesota Livestock Feeders Association/Cattlemen’s Association. George built a successful certified Angus herd and purchased, sold and exhibited show cattle throughout the country. George was active in his community, serving as the president of the Jackson County Farm Bureau, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the Vocational School Advisory Committee and a member of the Jackson County Park Board. George was chairman of the Jackson County Republicans, worked as a lobbyist at the state and federal level, and ran twice for election as a state senator.

George was a vocal advocate for the underdog, would always make time to listen to everyone’s stories and relished his role as the family storyteller. He loved to give everyone a hard time with a twinkle in his eye. Little did they know they were being taught life lessons — to stick up for themselves and learn a sense of accomplishment.

George is survived by his wife, Jean; children Jeanne (Doug) Whitney, George III, Ellen (Nick) Von Ohlen, Meg (Brad) Freking and Matt (Heather) Benda; grandchildren Chris and Conrad Whitney, Brandi and Jayma Benda, Ariel (Derek) Barkeim, Cole (Melissa) Von Ohlen, Ben, Will and Thomas Freking and Ashler and Avery Benda; and sisters Kay Waters and Barbara Gantenbein.

George is preceded in death by his parents George and Evelyn Benda; sister, Lavonne “Bonnie” Vollmar, and her husband, Warren “Doc” Vollmar; sister, Farrell Berg, and her husband, Bob Berg; and his brother-in-law, John Waters; as well as many other relatives.

A Mass of Christian burial will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Good Shepherd Catholic Church with the Rev. Jonathan Fasnacht officiating. Visitation was from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday with a rosary at 6 p.m., and will be one hour prior to the service. Memorials can be made to the Jackson County Fair Board or Good Shepherd Church.